"Carrie, many of us have seen your incredible style, showcased in photos of your home, in the pages of (among others) Country Home and Country Living magazines. Your home is every modern vintage girl’s fantasy: fresh, pretty, comfortable, and seemingly achievable on a realistic budget. Hallmarks of your style include slipcovers, chipped paint, vintage wares - crowned in just enough sparkle to announce that you are, arguably, 'the queen of pretty'."
Restyled Home (RH): I have been a fan of your work since first laying eyes on your beautiful kitchen. I share your love of open shelving, chandeliers, a soft colour palette, and that charming, skirted apron sink. However, my favourite surprise element in your kitchen is your big, “crusty” island! Tell us about it, and where you found it.
Carrie Raphael (CR): The kitchen island was one of those great finds. I had already designed the kitchen and was starting to think about buying a table and simply adding marble to the top to make an island that would suit the space. I went to a small antique
shop near my home. It was a shop off a main road, which was really just part of the owner's garage. Basically, it was a place most people would not even bother checking out. To
be honest it was all junk; but on the side wall, under mountains of dishes, garage pieces
and old dirty bottles, I noticed butcher block and could tell it ran quite a length. I did not
even see the front of it until I moved all the boxes that were blocking it. Literally, the table was only being used as a place to display small items. When I spied the drawers on the front I became very excited! The owner of the shop explained he got it for free from a bakery in Georgetown DC when he was renovating an old bakery. He seemed shocked I wanted to buy it - the price I got for it was crazy - so inexpensive that it will make people jealous :) I know I am usually on the other side drooling when I hear a great find story - this is my one "great find" tale. I sanded the butcher top, bleached and oiled it well, and it is now a great workable surface. The bins were used to hold flour and sugar in the bakery, but I use them for dog food, bags etc.
RH: Many of us know what look we love, and which elements will achieve said look, but can’t quite put a label on our own, personal style. What do you call your style?
CR: My style is American-Swedish. I am greatly influenced by Swedish style, but classic
American design is a part of me...my childhood. If I followed Swedish design perfectly it
would just not be natural...
RH: Now that you have shared your penchant for Scandinavian style, what is about this style that appeals to you, and what elements do you feel most readily achieve this look?
CR: The element of Scandinavian style that I love the most is the focus on light and symmetry. Scandinavian style is timeless - it proves that less can be more. The American influence brings in more of the comfort elements that I cherish.
RH: Your home has a decidedly feminine feel to it and your husband is obviously on board with your choices. For those with less agreeable husbands, how would you suggest incorporating their styles…and should we?
CR: In regards to my home being feminine, in all honesty I think it has been shot that way
in pictures. I say this because if you were to walk through my house, I think the simplicity
stands out more than the “femininity” of the space. Yes, some of my colors are softer; but I
balance that with very little “frills”. I tend to be more simplistic with the finishing details of pieces, such as pillows. Now, I do love a classically Shabby Chic room; but if you were to compare a room of mine to a true Shabby Chic room, you would see what I mean. I stop short
of the feminine touches that you generally see in those spaces. I really like symmetry and classic, tailored looks - this speaks to men nicely even when the room is Beach Cottage Blue. You can almost fool them!
RH: Your home, to me, embodies the perfect union between comfort and fresh-faced pretty. How have your tastes changed over the years, and do you have any personal design disasters in your past that you are willing to share??
CR: My taste is constantly evolving, but it always seems to stay true to the elements that
have always been with me. If there was one major shift for me if would be my need for even more simplicity of style. I appreciate the lines of a piece of furniture more
now - the value of a classic lined table is priceless - and each piece in a room (no matter
its cost) should be able to stand alone of its own beauty. In essence, you should not have a table that you then need a lamp, vase, or fabric for. Now if adding them enhances the piece, fine; but it should not be done to make up for what the piece lacks. I have trained myself to stop - not fill a space too much - use one less pillow, one less accessory, perhaps not add that extra
chair. It is a balancing act that my eye has become more trained to see. This has been
influenced through my work as a photo stylist: editing is important.
RH: You have stated before that fashion inspires your slipcover line. What looks are exciting you now, and how will you incorporate them into your slipcover designs?
CR: I love fashion! Before I pick up a home magazine for inspiration, I will pick up a Vogue. The home decor magazine represents the "now" for interiors, while the fashion magazine is our interiors' future... color especially. How simple, or over the top, couture is; will be played out in our living rooms within a year or so after it hits the fashion runways. That is why you can never
go wrong with a simple white sofa (classic white oxford), a neutral sisal rug, (khakis),
some textures via pillows, and sparkle using lighting (think chandeliers, the jewelry). You can always dress that base up with your favorite color.
RH: As a successful interior designer, do you specialize in the style in which you decorate your home, or do you take on (for example) contemporary spaces for clients seeking an edgier look?
CR: I can design any style for a client, and my style is quite modern. I love clean lines and am evolving more in that direction. However, to answer your question, I have been very fortunate to be featured in many publications; and because of this I tend to have potential clients call me who aspire to a similar look. But, for example, in Country Home (September 2008) I did a make-over on a "true blue" country room. It was still "true blue" when I was finished, but with a modern touch. Overall, the look was completely different than what most people know me for. I love good taste - well put together rooms - and I am very good at understanding what a person and their family needs in their house to make it feel like a home. I can design any space in many ways but I have been fortunate to choose projects that I love.
RH: Which are the biggest design mistakes you see homeowners making, and which trends do you wish would simply “go away”?
CR: Too much stuff! I think people need to limit the amount of items in a room and let pieces stand on their own. People need to restrain themselves from filling up spaces with too much matchy junk!! Also, Pottery Barn rooms... ugh! If someone walks into your home and says it looks just like a Pottery Barn catalogue, don't take it as a compliment! It is a sign that it is time to personalize your space and make it your own!
RH: With the holidays rapidly approaching, we’d love to hear how you decorate your home for Christmas. Do you stray from your home’s color palette for the sake of tradition, or are you a purist who maintains a decorative flow no matter what the season? I am guessing your holiday décor has a Scandinavian feel…?
CR: I am in the process of doing several stories for Country Home Magazine involving my house. My look is changing (evolving), and the more busy I have become with my business I have felt the need to have my own home more pure, without color . The blue room will be gone. I still will have touches of my blue, but I want to simplify. I truly want a sense of calm throughout my home. So for the holidays this year I want my children to make the most of the decorations we use or bring natural elements into our home.
RH: Let’s see: a line of slipcovers, an interior design business, wife and busy mother of two…what is next for you? How big do you want your businesses to grow?
CR: It seems the more I plan, the more I am surprised. But something that is unexpected... a new project, a new product development opportunity... I think my main focus, if I could, would be product development and to be a lifestyle brand. I have a very normal family life (what's normal?), I relate well to most people, I understand how to make a home special with everyday touches, and I hope to reach more people with my ideas through books, magazines, websites and products.
Thanks to Carrie for sharing her tips and thoughts, and for continually inspiring us with her designs and style. I am patiently waiting for her to bring her slipcovers to a store near me, or at least you!! For more of Carrie and her beautiful designs, check out her website!